Picture This: Finding Free Images, Photos and Clip Art on the Web

Photo of a camera
You need a photo or an image for a project you’re working on. You need it fast. You don’t want to pay anything or get sued for copyright violation. Luckily, there are lots of sources on the Web for finding free-to-use images!

Some of these websites include images which are in the public domain (public domain = nobody owns the copyright). Others include images where the creator is giving up some of their copyright protection and allowing you to use their photos and artwork. However, the creator or website may have usage rules: for example, they might require you to tell people where the image came from and who made it. Before you copy or use any image, it’s a good idea to check for usage or licensing rules. 

ImageQuest - https://multcolib.org/resource/imagequest: ImageQuest is a library resource created by the Encyclopædia Britannica. It has millions of images that you can use for non-commercial purposes. The collection includes photos and clip art, and it allows you to sort results by shape (horizontal or vertical rectangle, or square). Information about creator and rights is provided for each image.

Creative Commons logo
Creative Commons Search - https://search.creativecommons.org: Creative Commons is an organization that helps people share content on the Web (photos, videos, writing, anything!) This webpage lets you search for images which have Creative Commons licenses. The licenses are like permission statements: they tell you what you are allowed to do with the image. 

Smithsonian Open Access - https://www.si.edu/openaccess/: The Smithsonian has created this site to provide access to millions of images from their museums, libraries, archives and the National Zoo. Every image is Creative Commons Zero (CC0), meaning that the Smithsonian has waived all of their rights under copyright. There is also a Smithsonian Learning Lab with information about the Open Access collection and ideas for how to use it.

Children reading a wireless newspaper
The Commons - https://www.flickr.com/commons: The Commons is a section of the photo-sharing website Flickr which provides access to images from public photography archives at museums and libraries around the world. It’s a great place to find historic photos, and everyone (including you!) is encouraged to add comments and tags to the images. The photos on this site have “no known copyright restrictions.”

Photo of a flower
Morgue File - https://morguefile.com/: A morgue file is a collection of past materials to use for future projects. In this particular online morgue file, you can find many high resolution stock photos.

Pixabay - https://pixabay.com/en/: Pixabay offers over 1.7 million royalty free stock photos and videos. 

Unsplashhttps://unsplash.com/: Over 1 million free, high-resolution photos shared by a huge online community of photographers. The Unsplash license gives you wide permission to use the images.

Scissors illustration

Are websites not your thing? Do you prefer books? The library has many books of illustrations and prints you can use, on all sorts of topics. To find them, just do a subject search in the library catalog for “clip art.” You’ll find books with images of Victorian women’s fashion, birds, children’s book illustrations, fairies and much more. At the end of this post is a book list showing examples of the types of clip art books that the library owns.

If you have trouble finding the images that you want, or if you have more questions about any of this, ask us for help! We’ll be happy to talk more about it.

Images included in this post:

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